Carlyle hiring a precursor to active off-season
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ downward spiral may have generated positive news with the hiring of head coach Randy Carlyle, replacing Ron Wilson after four years.
Fans should expect an adjustment period for the Leafs, however, as Carlyle will infuse a new brand of hockey compared to Wilson’s “run ‘n gun” tactics. Carlyle focuses on structured hockey and emphasizes on strong defensive play. If a player is careless without the puck and refuses to adapt to Carlyle’s system, that player will warm the bench. His brash approach ensures no non-sense and this could fit well with the developing Leafs---especially on the backend.
That said, Carlyle isn’t a knight in shining armor. The Leafs have several issues that need to be addressed in the off-season, most notably shedding some terrible contracts and filling some glaring holes. General manager Brian Burke won’t address all of the team’s needs, but the off-season should determine Burke’s direction moving forward and subsequently how his tenure will be analyzed. The Leafs could use a veteran back-up goaltender, a power forward, a number-two defenseman, a number-one center and a true shut-down line. Obviously it’s irrational to expect Burke to address all of those needs, but the hiring of Carlyle is certainly a precursor of what should be a busy off-season for the Leafs.
If players such as Colby Armstrong and Mike Komisarek find consistency under Carlyle’s teachings, and that is unlikely, then perhaps Burke’s job becomes a little easier. Taking a glance at the Leafs’ roster, however, there are more than a few players that have been underperforming and accounting for a considerable amount on the salary cap (Komisarek, Armstrong, Matthew Lombardi and Tim Connolly account for $15.75-million).
Considering Burke is content with the Leafs’ prospect pipeline, it’s important the general manager ensures there are open roster spots for emerging forwards such as Nazem Kadri and Joe Colborne in training camp. Burke has stressed this fact every year so that shouldn’t change. With the current roster performing under expectations, expect an overhaul upfront this summer if Burke wishes to realize his vision of the Leafs as a physical and aggressive team.
What exactly Burke has planned for the off-season is unknown, as that will hinge on whether the Leafs string some wins for a chance at a playoff spot or spiral into lottery pick positioning.
But one thing is certain: Carlyle’s hiring isn’t simply a coaching change; it’s a precursor to the next step in Burke’s blueprint. While there’s still 18 games remaining on the schedule, the off-season may spawn the most interesting news surrounding the Leafs.
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